Tumors in the Brain: Advances in Treatment
A tumor is a mass of tissue that's formed by an accumulation of abnormal cells. Normally, the cells in your body age, die, and are replaced by new cells. With cancer and other tumors, something disrupts this cycle. Tumor cells grow, even though the body does not need them, and unlike normal old cells, they don't die. As this process goes on, the tumor continues to grow as more and more cells are added to the mass.
Metastatic brain tumors are the most common tumors in adults, affecting up to 30% of adults with cancer in the United States. The incidence of brain metastases appears to be rising because of several factors, including an aging population, better treatment of systemic disease, and improved cranial imaging techniques.
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Recent advances have made treatment for brain tumors much safer and more successful. Some of these newer techniques include:
•Antiseizure/Antiepileptic Drugs (AEDs)
Often, low-grade tumors (grade I and II), which are not aggressive, are treated with watchful monitoring or surgery alone. Though all tumors are monitored with repeat scans, grade II tumors are watched more closely after surgery and over time to make sure there is no recurrence.
Higher grade tumors (grade III and IV), which are malignant and can grow quickly, are more difficult to remove and require additional treatments beyond surgery, such as radiation, chemotherapy, or a clinical trial if one is available.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for these tumors. However, there are very effective treatment options for high-grade tumors, which include:
•Surgery: The goal of surgery in the treatment of metastasis is to maximally remove tumor while leaving patients with good function
•Radiosurgery: A noninvasive technique that delivers numerous narrow, precisely aimed, highly focused beams of ionizing radiation that converge at a specific point.
•Radiation therapy: X-rays and other forms of radiation can destroy tumor cells or delay tumor growth.
•Targeted therapy: The focus on a specific element of a cell, such as molecules or pathways required for cell growth, in order to use them as a target.
Treatment depends on the size and type of the tumor, from where in the body it spread, and the patient's general health. The goals of treatment may be to relieve symptoms, improve functioning, or provide comfort.
Your cancer treatment will be based on your situation. Certain types of cancer respond better to certain types of treatment. Knowing the exact type of cancer you have is important in deciding which treatments will work the best. The cancer’s stage (how much cancer there is and where it is) will affect treatment options, too. Your health, lifestyle, and personal preferences will also play a part in deciding which treatment plan is best for you. Some types of treatment might work better for you than others, so be sure you understand your options. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your right to know what treatments are most likely to help and what their side effects may be.